Dogs offer ‘rapid and non-invasive’ Covid-19 screening test, new study reveals


Trained dogs are showing promise in detecting Covid-19 infections in a matter of seconds, a new study has found.

Two yellow labradors, named Rizzo and Scarlett, spent two months training to detect the virus before experiments were run at 27 schools in California in the US.

The dogs were trained to sniff out volatile organic compounds released by people with active infections and screened more than 3500 students.

The study, published in Jama paediatrics on Monday, found an 83 per cent accuracy rate for positive detections and 90 per cent for negative detections.

This was lower than the 95 per cent accuracy rating in the lab, which the researchers attributed to distractions at the school, such as noises, smells and young children.

In Australia, polymerase chain reaction testing (PCR) is considered the gold standard, with 100 per cent sensitivity in laboratory conditions. Rapid antigen tests are required to be more than 80 per cent accurate.

Students were lined up as the dogs sniffed their ankles and feet, indicating a positive possible infection by sitting.

Study lead Carol Glaser said the study supported the use of dogs as an “efficient and non-invasive” screening method that could be used for other pathogens.

“Dog screening for Covid-19 infection can be completed in a matter of seconds,” the authors wrote in the paper.

“Scent-trained dogs are a strategy for rapid, non-invasive, low-cost and environmentally responsible Covid-19 screening.”

The news comes after Australia’s top doctor warned more Covid-19 waves were expected in the coming months.

“People are over Covid-19, I’m certainly over Covid-19, but it’s still there. We can’t ignore that there is Covid-19 circulating in the community,” chief medical officer Paul Kelly said.

“We’re rapidly moving to a time where we’re actually really targeting those messages for those higher-risk individuals, rather than the general population.”

On Monday, a parliamentary inquiry released its final report into long Covid-19 in Australia, noting a nationally co-ordinated research program into the virus should be established.

Committee chair Mike Freelander said long Covid was a significant problem for the country, with somewhere between 2 and 20 per cent of infections developing into the condition.

Among the committee’s nine recommendations is a national database for Covid-19 to track infections, hospitalisations and complications.

The report said there was a “lack of conclusive evidence about recovery periods”, but most people would eventually recover.

Australia Long Covid Community Facebook Support Group administrator Karren Hill told the inquiry the scale of the virus’s impact in Australia was not “fully recognised”.

“Our challenges in terms of our health, job, careers, incomes and relationships and our future health outcomes are entirely unknown,” she said.

“This lack of strong data makes it difficult to develop appropriate policy responses and easily dismiss the serious, urgent widespread need.”

Following the report’s release, Health Minister Mark Butler pledged $50m towards new research and the development of a national plan to respond to long Covid-19.

Originally published as Dogs offer ‘rapid and non-invasive’ Covid-19 screening test, new study reveals


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